Semi-pro football squad forming  in Carter County

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   There's a lot of excitement and anticipation awaiting the start of a new semi-pro football team, as the Carter County Timberwolves will attempt to make an impact during their first season.
   After having much success with last year's ballclub the Tennessee Warriors, owners Jon Sluder and Daniel Shell decided to make the move from Johnson City to Carter County and form a new team.
   "The ones playing for us now played for Johnson City last year, and we finished the season 6-0 to go on to Atlanta and compete in the EFA national playoffs," said Sluder.
   The Johnson City team allowed just 13 points in regular season play, so optimism for success with the Carter Co. team is high.
   "John Kelly had 27 sacks in six regular-season games, and he's unreal on defense, and right now we're looking at being a power football team and hard-hitting on defense," said Sluder.
   A lot of great area athletes from the past will be joining this year's club, and anyone else who wants the opportunity to show their abilities is invited to come on out.
   "We've got a lot of guys from Carter County, and we're getting a bunch more who are interested, but right now we're just trying to get the word out, and let everyone know what's going on," said Sluder.
   Try-outs will be held at Unaka High School on May 31 at 2 p.m., and anyone from age 18 and over will be welcomed and given a chance.
   "We really do appreciate coach Mike Ensor from Unaka High School for letting us have our try-outs there, and considering letting us play there, whether we get to or not," said Sluder.
   Expectations are high considering the success from last year's performance, and several guys have elected to make the transfer, but more participants are needed to make a title run.
   "We've got guys coming from the Johnson City team and have picked up a couple of more from Carter County, so we're hoping to pick up a few more and win another title," said Sluder.
   Some of the local guys that competed last season, just to name a few were John Kelly, Daniel Shell, and Andrew Rhinehart from Elizabethton; and Travis Brown, Joel Etter and Jeremy Puckett from Happy Valley.
   "Right now we've got guys from just about every Carter County school, so we'd like to get everybody involved from every part of the county," said Sluder.
   There are eight teams that feature the conference league, which ranges from Knoxville to Lee Co. (Va.) and a total of 1 different conferences.
   "There will be a 10-game schedule starting up the last week in August, and our first game will be held in Knoxville," said Sluder.
   It should be a more competitive league than last season, explains Sluder, as several recognized college names are expected to compete.
   "There are some new players coming into the league this year," he said. "Supposedly, Joey Mathews from Tennessee is coming out for a team, and "Choo-Choo" Davis, who was run off from Alabama, is also playing," said Sluder.
   Eight teams reached the playoffs last season, but with the increase of expansion there will be 11 teams competing in the post-season now.
   "There are three games you must win to capture the Eastern Football Alliance title, and there's a web-site (semipro.org) which lists all the teams records from last year," said Sluder.
   Sluder says the reason for the move is so things can be more suited for the players, and not so much of a focus on the all-mighty dollar.
   "A situation at the end of last season with new ownership was that everything was shifting more toward a business than player-oriented, and we just wanted to play football," said Sluder.
   Ray Price will be the Timberwolves' head coach and Shannon Simpson the offensive coordinator. Four other coaches are yet to be named.
   "I'll tell you this, we have one coach that played in the World League NFL Europe, and another guy who played on the Chicago Bears practice squad, so our coaching will be stout," said Shell.
   It's a great opportunity for anyone who wants to still play football and compete at the next level.
   "I've have confirmation right now of three pro teams and three Arena League teams who are coming to scout us," said Shell.
   Games are projected to be announced on WBEJ 1240-AM, and anyone who is willing to sponsor the team, which is non-profit, will be greatly appreciated.
   Flyers will be posted all throughout the county, and there is a try-out fee of $20 to help cover expenses, so anyone with questions please call Daniel Shell at 423-773-4023 or Jon Sluder at 957-0739.